“I have tried to be as eclectic as I possibly can with my professional life, and so far it's been pretty fun.”*

Eclectic design can be quite daunting and overwhelming, particularly when you take into consideration all the discrete elements that contribute to an eclectic scheme. Although it can often look like it has been thrown together (which it sometimes has, depending on the experience of the designer), it actually takes considerable skill to create something that works really well in practice. The core skill at the heart of eclectic design is being able to understand how a completely different and diverse variety of stuff can be mixed together to deliver a cohesive scheme.

There genuinely is no right or wrong when it comes to eclectic design, but there are a number of basic design principles that you can take into consideration when creating an eclectic scheme to make sure that it works as a whole… or, from a theoretical Gestalt perspective, to ensure that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts…

Fundamental to achieving a successful and effective eclectic scheme is understanding the visual relationship between elements in a space. These guidelines provide a sense of order that aid the design – they are not intended to restrict it. Two really basic principles that are very powerful and effective are symmetry and asymmetry in a room. 

(Image from Elle Decor) 
Also, by organizing dissimilar (and sometimes very different) design elements in close proximity they are viewed together in the scheme as a group. 

(Image from Living Room Decorating)

Finally, the repetition of colour, pattern, shape, texture, etc. causes the viewer’s eyes to see a rhythmic continuity of movement within a space… 

(Image from Living Room Decorating)
So, there you go – a beginners guide to eclectic design. If you have always wanted to create an eclectic scheme but haven’t really been sure where to start, just think about using these really simple principles... and then go and buy a book about Gestalt Psychology and the Theory of Visual Perception... no, not really...

*Roland Barthes (dead French literary theorist/intellectual – don’t worry, I had to Google it...)


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